My story begins in eternity past. When, before the foundation of the world, God chose me in the Beloved. To God belongs the glory. Before I was born, Christ died for my sins. On July 4, 1966, the Spirit regenerated me. Since the age of six, I have been a Christian. But I need to start my story a year earlier.
One of my earliest memories occurred when I was five years old. One evening while my mom was not home, a local pastor came knocking on our door. My dad was home with me and my younger brother and sister. My mom, Marie, had been attending a small church with a new young pastor named Charles Keen. Mom had been saved as a teen but had married a non-Christian. His name was Roger Wilson. When Pastor Keen came knocking, my father invited him in. I remember Pastor Keen asking me if, as the oldest child, I would please take my brother and sister into another room, so he could talk to my dad. I remember taking them around the corner into the hallway, but I peeked around the corner to watch. Shortly, I witnessed my dad and the pastor kneel at the hearth of our fireplace. I turned to my siblings and said dad is praying! From that point on I was raised in a Christian home. That little church and that young pastor would become the center of our existence.
I don't mean to imply that Christ wasn't at the center of our lives. He was, but, especially to a kid, it was hard to separate Christ and the church/pastor. Much of the course of my life was dictated by the church/pastor relationship.
When dad got saved, he got really saved. He taught the teenage class. He was a trustee. He became the church treasurer. When the church built a new auditorium, he was the general contractor. He even contemplated going off to Bible college. Mom taught a girl's class. She was the Sunday School secretary. She even kept the attendance as the attendance increased from 100 to 1000. For a long time, she knew everybody and where they sat. She would mark them present or absent and report to the pastor who wasn't there. She was also the church cook. Even as the church grew, mom handled the food. She planned the menus for the banquets and parties. She did most of the cooking (and did it well by the way).
When I was six or seven, we were in the car with mom at the wheel. She was hurrying here and there preparing for yet another banquet. She was stressed out. We were driving through the streets of Milford, Ohio when she was pulled over for speeding. The three of us kids stared wide-eyed as the policeman approached our car. Mom was a lawbreaker! He asked to see her license. Mom began to cry. She explained how she was preparing for a church supper. She was so hurried and distracted, she didn't realize she was speeding. I remember the policeman patting mom on the shoulder. He said, it's alright lady, if you'll forget about, I will too. As far as I know, mom has never gotten a ticket.
One Saturday, when I was six, I remember telling my mom that I wanted to be saved. She said that tomorrow, during the invitation, I should go forward to the altar and tell the pastor. On Sunday, I went forward with my dad and he led me in the sinner's prayer. That night I was baptized. I remember that afternoon, my dad had to go the church and put concrete blocks (he was a contractor at the time) in the bottom of the baptistery for me to stand on. I think I may have been the first child baptized in the new auditorium (the first of three auditoriums that the church ended up building).
Our lives revolved around the church. The pastor's son (Gary) was my best friend. My family went to church Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening, every night of revival, faith promise missions conference, you name it, we were there. We were the first to arrive and the last to leave. My brother, sister and I used to play church. I would preach, my brother would lead the music, my sister would pretend to play the piano. We would even baptize the neighbor kids. I remember preaching a sermon using one of my dad's Sunday School lessons. For quick reference he would write the page number of a verse he wanted to read in the margin of his lesson. So instead of looking up 1 Chronicles 26:18, he could just turn to page 595. Anyway, I was preaching and in the lesson it asked, "how many angels are there?" In the margin he had written the page number 1501 for where Hebrews 12:22 is found. So I said, there are 1501 angels!
Photo: That's me front and center, thrilled with wearing a bow tie to Sunday School. Gary (the pastor's son) is also wearing a bow tie and a plaid jacket. The grin means he is up to no good.